Drought Crushes Our Spirits

Beefs and Beliefs

The restocking after drought may be tougher than the destocking during drought.

Published on: January 24, 2013

I've been thinking of 1998 lately.

Until now, that was the worst drought I'd lived through, including the very hot and dry year of 1983.

In 1998 I lived in southwestern Oklahoma. It rained a gully washer March 21 and that was the end of moisture. By May 1 we were topping 100 degrees every day and April had been no cake walk. The grass was all crunchy except some Eastern gamagrass and switchgrass along a creek bed. The creeks were mostly dry. The trees were losing their leaves. Kind'a like this year.

For work I traveled from Brownsfield, Texas, to near Fort Smith, Arkansas, and saw about the same misery everywhere I went. Unlike 2012 it was hot farther north but rainy. I should have traveled there...

We got a cool spell the first week of June and a little rain but it was too little too late. After that we went back to normal -- sunny, 105 degrees and above and sometimes a nice convection-oven wind to go with it. It finally broke too late when we got four inches of rain on October 31.

Above all, I remember how depressed I was.

This thing we're locked into now is much worse. The weather records say it's much like the drought of the 50s and to some degree the drought of the 30s.

I hope it doesn't last as long. I know all you folks hope not, too.

It's debilitating to finances and depending on how we manage it is often destructive to the land. Perhaps the worst thing that happens in drought is that it crushes our hope and cripples our future. The decision to restock and when to restock, for instance, is one of the hardest ones to make. I once heard Nebraska rancher Marlene Moore talk about how the after-effects of drought are paralyzing.

One morning earlier this week I spent with beef producer Gary Parli at Morrison, Oklahoma, and he was wisely talking about waiting to restock, when it starts raining again, until the grass has time to recover.

Still, that's a difficult decision and the fear that drives us is that it will stop raining again and we'll run out of grass -- again.

I'm praying for everyone out there to have rain or snow soon and to have the wisdom to use it in just the right manner.